Trust for Public Land Permanently Protects over 5,000 Acres in Deep Creek Area of Missoula Valley, Montana 

In recent years, TPL has secured the protection and grown Lolo National Forest by over 20,000 acres 

Missoula, MT –  Trust for Public Land [TPL] and MKH Montana, LLC [MKH], in partnership with the Lolo National Forest, announced the permanent protection of 5,372 acres in the Deep Creek area and visible from downtown Missoula, Montana. As part of the Missoula Valley Front Country Access Project, TPL and its partners have moved these lands into public ownership under the management of the Lolo National Forest, which will preserve public access while protecting wildlife habitat, and natural and historic features in the fast-growing Missoula Valley. 

“For decades Montanans’ access to some of their most treasured land has been guaranteed through little more than a handshake agreement. Now at a time when Montana is seeing break-neck growth and a rapidly rising real estate market, TPL and our partners are doing everything we can to keep Montana, Montana, and to provide permanent protection and access to our beloved hunting spots, hiking trails, and favorite fishing holes,” said Dick Dolan, TPL’s Northern Rockies Director. “The protection today of over 5,000 acres is a great step in that conservation mission and we are proud to partner with the Forest Service to protect and provide an additional 20,000 acres to the Lolo National Forest for Montanans to enjoy over recent years. In the coming years we look forward to continuing this important work with our partners to protect additional lands that are at risk of conversion from traditional uses.” 

Today’s announcement follows TPL’s complementary and recently completed Lolo Trails Landmark project that added over 14,800 acres to Lolo National Forest. TPL has now secured the protection of over 20,000 acres of forestlands within the Lolo National Forest since 2020. 

“The Missoula community values access and connectivity of public lands. Thanks to many partners, including the leadership of Trust for Public Land, this acquisition secures over 5,000 additional acres of National Forest Land that will conserve habitat, improve management efficiency, and link recreation opportunities right outside the backdoor of Missoula,” stated Carolyn Upton, Lolo National Forest Supervisor. 

These undeveloped areas offer myriad opportunities for the rapidly growing communities of Missoula and Lolo to hunt and enjoy the outdoors. While providing permanent public access to extraordinary recreation, the addition of these lands to the National Forest System also precludes future development and protects incredible wildlife habitat and key landscape connectivity. 

This project not only complements an existing network of public land and adds to protected forests, but it also protects critical habitat for both big game and other wildlife. In addition to the recreation access and wildlife habitat benefits, consolidating ownership of these checkerboard lands will allow for more efficient public land management, including wildfire prevention and suppression.

“We are so appreciative of TPL’s efforts on Deep Creek. With this land permanently protected we can begin to explore creating the infrastructure for legal, sustainable, and appropriate outdoor recreation in the area. Someday Deep Creek should be a viable hiking and biking alternative to the heavy pressure sites close to town. In this way use and preservation can enable each other,” said Missoula County Commissioner Josh Slotnick. 

This project represents the first phase of the Missoula Front Valley Access Project. Additional opportunities exist to continue working with MKH and the USFS to protect and bring priority lands into the Lolo National Forest. 

This project owes much of its success to the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which was fully funded through passage of the Great American Outdoors Act in August 2020.

“Guaranteeing and expanding access to our public lands will boost our recreational economy and ensure that generations of Montanans get to experience all that the Treasure State has to offer,” said Senator Jon Tester. “I’m proud to have led the fight to pass the Great American Outdoors Act, which provided this funding, and I will continue to fight for programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund that help keep Montana the Last Best Place.”

“Outdoor recreation is part of our Montana way of life, and thanks to my bipartisan ‘Great American Outdoors Act,’ more Montanans will be able to enjoy our beautiful public lands. Increasing public access for hunting, hiking and fishing while promoting conservation and improving management is a critical part of our Montana economy and way of life. I’m glad to see this project move forward and thankful for all that the Trust for Public Land and MKH Montana has done to make this happen,” said Senator Steve Daines.